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Robert M. Cole awards given for good school board news coverage

Eleven newspapers received awards in the 27th annual Robert M. Cole Awards competition for 2007, including the Belleville News-Democrat, which earned first place in the large daily newspaper category.

The Cole Awards are sponsored by the Illinois Association of School Boards and conducted by the Illinois Press Association to recognize newspapers that are doing an outstanding job of covering local school boards and emphasizing the community's connection with local public school districts.

The Belleville paper was not the only first-place Cole Award winner. The Times, Ottawa, won first prize in the medium-size daily category, the Times-Republic, Watseka, won first prize in the small daily newspaper category, and The Doings, LaGrange, won first prize in the non-daily newspaper category.

The News-Democrat also earned 2nd place in the large daily newspaper category, followed by the Pantagraph, Bloomington, in 3rd place.

The Pekin Daily Times earned 2nd place in the mid-size daily newspaper category, while second prize for small dailies went to the Morris Daily Herald. Earning 2nd place in the non-daily category was the Coal City Courant, and 3rd place went to the Ledger-Sentinel, Oswego. Honorable mention was awarded to the Village Voices, Lena.

Winning papers' reporters, stories, and judges' comments are:

  • Ramona Curtis, Belleville News-Democrat Schools go on hiring spree since oversight panel ends: "The reporting on this story made it [the] top choice. The numbers jump out at you. Good watchdog journalism."
  • Melissa Garzanelli, The Times, Ottawa Most local schools make the grade: "Good variety, daily numbers stories, features and enterprise. Well-written with many voices [represented]."
  • Erin Doss, Times-Republic, Watseka High school deactivation discussed in Crescent City: "Though the [lead paragraphs] need help, what follows is strong, thorough, many voices [from] real people, and easy to read. Stories examine issues with good use of quotes, exposure of emotions from stakeholders. Reporter has good instincts for the guts of a story."
  • Jane Michaels, Ken Knutson and Brett Johnson, The Doings, LaGrange Electronic devices increase thefts, school concerns: "Excellent variety of coverage and thorough articles that hold readers' interests."

Named in memory of the first executive director of IASB, the Robert M. Cole Award recognizes outstanding coverage of education issues that emphasizes the community's connection with its local public school district.

Winners were announced Friday, Sep. 21, at the annual convention of the Illinois Press Association. James Russell of the IASB communications department presented plaques to first place winners.

There were 26 entries for this year's school board coverage awards. Members of the Virginia Press Association judged the contest.

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